How to host a summer garden get-together in style

It has been a long time coming but we are finally allowed to socialise again. Bars and restaurants are open for guests to sit outside and while we are currently allowed to invite one household into our homes, we can have a bigger gathering in our gardens and outdoor spaces, with an increase in numbers expected in July.

But although this slow return to normality is very welcome, many people feel anxious about entertaining again with concerns about what food to prepare for outside dining, what drinks will work well, how to keep people warm and dry and how to give our gardens an instant facelift.

“This summer is all about meeting up with good friends again in your garden or outdoor area,” says Sean Gleeson, founder of zoomparty.ie.

“Of course, it’s the people who make the party, but having the necessary equipment, along with an awning in case the weather doesn’t play ball, does help matters along.

“For those with kids, a trampoline and blow-up pool will keep them entertained and [for the adults] a small marquee, DJ and sax player will help to make things really special.”

A side table is a useful addition to the main table.
A side table is a useful addition to the main table

Entertainment aside, Andy Duffy of caterwaiter.ie, has a long history in the hospitality trade and says the trick to hosting the perfect garden party is to give yourself plenty of time to get ready.

“Preparation is key here so I would advise cleaning the area a few days in advance, dead head flowers, remove weeds between patios and feed your lawn,” he says. “Check that your lighting has working bulbs and plugs and freshen up blankets and cushions by giving them a wash or clean.

“On the day itself, dress your table in style, whether the party is formal or informal, with individual place settings, napkins and cutlery – jars with candles and flowers dotted along the table will give it a more boho vibe.

Show your personality by adding brightly coloured cushions to the garden, advises Designer Anne Tuohy. Paul Costello Living stripe XL cushion from Dunnes Stores €70
Brightly coloured cushions like Paul Costello Living stripe XL cushion from Dunnes add to occasion

“Being Ireland, as soon as the sun goes down, so does the temperature, so have your blankets at the ready – fire pits or electric heaters add a super cosy atmosphere and will also allow you to enjoy sitting al fresco longer into the night.”

Dublin-based events planner, Maria Reidy of mariareadyevents.com agrees and says setting the scene is essential.

“Dress your outdoor dining area with the same consideration that you would approach a dinner party in your home,” she says. “Arrange planters and colourful blooms in pots near the dining space. Cover the area with a parasol. Fringed varieties are very popular and fashionable at present and IKEA also do great shades that you can open and close easily.

Advocado place setting from mariareidyevents.com
Advocado place setting
Six-person tablescape for the garden from Maria Reidy of mariareidyevents.com
Six-person tablescape for the garden from Maria Reidy

“Soften outdoor furniture by adding cushions and throws and ensure garden paths and walkways are safe and well-lit with lanterns or even tealights in jam jars. Brightly coloured tapered dinner candles in contrasting delicate candleholders on the table (along with coloured glassware) will create a gorgeous glow to the table as the sun goes down.

“Also, white crisp tablecloths look wonderful in any setting and matching napkins in bright colours can transform a table. Or use a woven rattan charger or ceramic plates to create a beautiful table setting. Layer with a smaller contrasting plate on top and this is perfect for serving a sharing platter to the table when guests arrive.”

Designer Anne Tuohy – aka The Room Junkie – says comfort, warmth and ambience are key to successful garden entertaining.

“Make your fire pit the focal point, just as you would in your living room, then layer up with lots of battery-operated candle in glass jars, solar-powered lights and faux fur throws,” she says.

“Dress your outdoor dining area with the same consideration that you would approach a dinner party in your home,” says Maria Reidy
Dress outdoor dining areas with same consideration you would approach a dinner party in your home
“White crisp tablecloths look wonderful in any setting and matching napkins in bright colours can transform a table,” says Maria Reidy.
White crisp tablecloths look wonderful. Matching napkins in bright colours can transform a table

“Show your personality by adding in a colourful outdoor rug, and some brightly coloured weather-proof cushions. And if you are starting from scratch, use the same porcelain tile indoors and outdoors as this effectively blurs the boundary, creating perfect flow.”

Andy Duffy says when it comes to food, you can’t beat a selection of salad, some artisan breads and dips and a centre piece of beef, lamb, salmon or crab from local producers.

“You can either set this up on a separate dressed table for guests to help themselves or in the middle of the table (you are seated at) which creates a great relaxed atmosphere,” he says. “And when it comes to drinks, a lovely refreshing cocktail (with or without alcohol) on arrival is always good. Make sure to have ice in stock along with drink garnishes such as fruit slices and herbs and have a chat with your local wine store who will advise on what wine, within your budget, would be best to go with on the day.”

Of course, if you would like to relax with your guests, you can hire a bartender to mix cocktails and provide drinks and get outside caterers to do the food. Duffy advises getting recommendations from friends or reading reviews and checking social media channels before choosing someone to provide the food and chatting with the relevant parties beforehand to ensure you are both on the same wavelength.

Brightly coloured tapered dinner candles along with coloured glassware will create a gorgeous glow to the table as the sun goes down. Tablescape mariareidyevents.com
Brightly coloured tapered dinner candles along with coloured glassware will create a gorgeous glow
“White crisp tablecloths look wonderful in any setting and matching napkins in bright colours can transform a table,” says Maria Reidy.
Dress table in style with individual place settings, napkins and cutlery

Sarah Wenman of svs-eventconcierge.com agrees but says there are also some great takeaway options which will make life easier without the expense of hiring a caterer.

“In terms of catering, a very popular option is graze boxes, boards and tables which create an easy and relaxed food offering which people can help themselves to,” she says. “There are also afternoon tea at home boxes and picnic style offerings and some companies can also provide table decor and will set up as well. You can also get a great selection of meal boxes from restaurants, including barbecue boxes which offer a more high-end experience to the usual barbecue.”

And while planning an event can be exciting, clearing up afterwards isn’t much fun, but Duffy says the process can be made easier if we prepare in advance.

“As much as we put effort into preparing for our guests, it is always advisable to get ready for the end of the event too,” he says. “So make sure you know where bins will be, have dishes ready and handy to store leftovers, keep your beer boxes to store (leftover) beer or to transport bottles to the recycling plant and start the day with an empty dishwasher, so you can load it up at the end. And if you are hiring equipment, make sure to have agreed collection times in place.

“But most of all, enjoy your day and look forward to a summer of fun.”

zoomparty.ie
caterwaiter.ie
mariareadyevents.com
svs-eventconcierge.com